The United States is home to the largest group of immigrants worldwide. The largest group of immigrants entering the US over the past decade is primarily made up of asylum seekers from Latin America. As the immigrant population becomes younger, the consequences of parent-child separation are becoming more complex in nature. This is the first scoping review examining the negative psychosocial impacts of parent-child separation due to immigration across prior qualitative and quantitative literature solely focused on children in the field of Social Work. The purpose of this scoping review is to present themes and gaps in the existing literature surrounding parent-child separation among Latin American immigrants.
Methods: This scoping study was conducted using Arksey & O’Malley’s (2005) five-step framework: identifying the research question, identifying relevant studies in scholarly literature, selecting studies that meet all criteria, charting the data, and reporting the results. Thematic analysis was used to identify recurring themes within the selected body of literature. Content analysis was used to describe other features of the selected articles, such as year of publication, stage of immigration, and negative psychosocial impacts children experienced following separation from their parents.
Results: Feelings of confusion, depression, anxiety, and somatic symptoms appear to be prevalent throughout the literature regardless of the migration pathway of the child. Psychosocial outcomes noted in the literature specific to serial migration, were anger, abandonment, feeling estranged from parents, and experiencing problems with attachment. Reunification with parents was consistently associated with feelings of fear of rejection, withdrawal, and alienation. More jarring psychosocial outcomes among children such as toxic stress appear to be noted in literature discussing family separation at the time of border crossing. Gaps in the literature included paternal separation and sibling separation. There is also an opportunity to clarify the psychosocial outcomes faced by Latin American males that have undergone the coming-of-age during their migration journey to the United States to become providers for their families.
Conclusions and Implications: A large portion of psychosocial outcomes were found throughout the migration journey among Latin American children that experienced family separation due to immigration. However, there were a small number of psychosocial outcomes that appeared to be congruent with specific points of that journey. Overall, a wide range of psychosocial outcomes were found to be documented in peer-reviewed scholarly journals in the past decade. This left room to explore and identify gaps in the current literature that if explored, may provide a better understanding into the association between various sociodemographic characteristics within the Latin American immigrant population as it related to the psychosocial outcomes impacting children.